Don't buy these items unless you like giving money away to sketchy marketers.
1. 3-D movie tickets.
According to the National Association of Theater Owners, the average movie ticket jumped to $8.33 in the second quarter of 2014, up from $7.96 earlier in the year. Is that because movies have gotten better? No, it’s mainly because of gimmicks like 3-D effects, a trend that is little more than a way for movie studios to reach into your wallet. In New York City, 3-D tickets can cost as much as $20 a pop.
Studios are even repackaging films originally shot in 2-D with 3-D effects so they can slap on extra fees. Most of the time the result is just annoying. As tech writer Jason Hiner explains:
“3D is definitely NOT about innovation, as the industry would like you to believe. In fact, adding the current 3D effects to a movie or video of any kind subtracts from the picture. It muddies the colors and unsharpens the images, and it has to slow down the action shots because it makes people sick if things go too fast in 3D. In fact, optometrists estimate that up to 25% of people get headaches or nausea from simply watching 3D at all.”
Pay extra to feel like puking? Definitely not worth it.
2. “Detox” products.
To hear the marketers tell it, your body is a toxic cesspool of pollutants that must be artificially “cleansed” by elaborate products, from foot spas to diet supplements to colon cleanses.
The problem with this theory is that it’s pretty much pure BS.
As Rahnit Mishori of the Georgetown University School of Medicine explains, you actually have your very own built-in cleanser: "The body has its own amazing detoxification systems: the liver and the kidneys….Unless there's a blockage in one of these organs that do it day and night, there's absolutely no need to help the body get rid of toxins."
But telling you your body is dirty is a great way to make money, as the marketers of vaginal douches found out a while back. (“Ever get that not-so-fresh feeling?”) Rick Miller of the British Dietetic Association explains that a theory called “autointoxication” circulated in the early 20th century helped promote the notion of waste build-up in the body. It was debunked in the 1930s, but that hasn’t stopped hustlers and ignoramuses from stocking the shelves with “detox” products. Funny thing is, none of them seem to agree on what detoxing even is, much less offer any solid evidence that the methods and products make you healthier.
What really needs a good cleanse are the shelves of your local supplement store.
3. Body scrub.
“Exfoliants” and scrubs that promise to polish and revive your skin are definitely not worth the dough.
Sephora.com, the cosmetics giant, sells 44 different exfoliating products with ingredients ranging from the natural-sounding sugar, ginseng and walnuts to the incomprehensible “multi-acid resurfacing complex with microdermabrading polymer beads.”
At prices ranging from $16 to $95, we have an idea that will work just as well to remove dead skin from your body: a washcloth.
4. Drain openers.
Clogged sinks are a drag, but so is throwing your money down the drain. Next time, try putting aside the toxic industrial chemicals and use common household items.
Often a plunger will do the trick. If not, grab a box of baking soda. Pour a cup down the drain, and follow that up with half a cup of vinegar. You’ll begin to notice some foaming and fizzing, which you’ll want to leave alone for 30 minutes, followed by hot water to flush. Using this procedure once or twice a month should keep the drain open.
5. Lottery tickets.
When you buy a lottery ticket, you have about 1 in 14 million to 1 in 140 million chance of winning a big prize. For sake of comparison, you have a better chance — 1 in 10 million —of being struck by falling airplane parts. You have a similar chance of becoming president of the United States.
Are we getting the picture here? Of course, there are other reasons to forgo the lottery ticket. Most people who do get giant windfalls wind up in financial ruin. Janite Lee, a wigmaker from North Korea who immigrated to St. Louis, won $18 million in the Illinois lottery in 1993. Despite trying to do good with the money by engaging in various philanthropic efforts, she could not manage her new fortune. Only four years later, she filed for bankruptcy.
No one likes a stinky sofa or carpet, but dousing them with perfumed spray is not going to solve the problem.
The fact is, simple household products do a great job at removing odors. You can deodorize carpets by sprinkling them with baking soda, letting that sit for 10 minutes, and then running the vacuum. Baking soda can also be left in small, vented containers in funky-smelling rooms to absorb odors. If your car smells icky, try putting half a cup baking soda in the ashtray to continually deodorize.
Vinegar is also a great odor-buster. If you’re cooking with stinky foods like fish, fill a bowl with white vinegar in the kitchen to help cut down on odor. A half and half solution of water and vinegar is also great for wiping down the fridge and the microwave to get rid of odors. To deodorize sponges, soak them in a dish of white vinegar for a few hours, then rinse and dry.
7. Premium unflavored vodka.
You see them at the bar. Snooty vodka aficionados who demand high-end Grey Goose, Absolut, or some other premium brand for their cocktail. Could they really tell the difference if a cheap brand were substituted? Highly unlikely.
As David Kiley wrote in Businessweek, “Vodka's taste notes are so subtle that people make their choices based on bottle and label design, country of origin—and brand story.”
In other words, the stuff tastes the same no matter what type you buy, so marketers have to make their product seem special by making up some elaborate story about its royal pedigree or pouring it in a fancy container.
If a liquor is aged in special barrels or goes through some other process to make it taste differently, go ahead and shell out a few extra bucks. But vodka is a neutral liquor by definition. In fact, the goal of vodka distillers is to make the spirit as pure and clear as possible. When you pour it into a glass of cranberry juice, what you end up with is something that tastes like cranberry juice that will give you a buzz. Why pay more for the cute bottle? That, friends, is stupid.